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Pastor answers call, gives teen second chance at life

Nov. 8, 2005

A UMNS Feature
By Kathy L. Gilbert*


Laura England is running a mile, eating chocolate and preparing to go to college next semester.

Typical things for most 18-year-olds, but not something she could even dream about until the Rev. J. Michael Davis gave her one of his kidneys.

England’s kidneys shut down last February, during her senior year in high school. At the time, Davis was pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Springfield, Mo., where England has been a member all her life. He has since been transferred to Milan and Green City United Methodist Church.

“We are really unsure about what happened to my kidneys,” England says. “The doctor said it was something that may have been going for a long time.” By the time they figured out she was really sick, her kidneys were too small and shriveled up for the doctors to do a biopsy.

“When I first got sick, the only thing that really scared me was that I had to go to the hospital,” she says.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of the Rev. J. Michael Davis

The Rev. J. Michael Davis visits with Laura England (right) and her mother, Rhonda.
England’s parents were not suitable donors, and her brothers were too young to be considered. When he heard that news, Davis announced to the church that England needed a kidney donor with type O blood.

“I knew I could be a potential donor,” he says.

“I spent a good week — sleepless nights — just wrestling with the fear, the anxiety, the call I thought I had,” Davis says. “I just woke up one morning and said, ?I think this is what God is wanting me to do.’” It was a calling that he describes as strong as or stronger than the one he felt to be a pastor.

Davis wasn’t the only person who felt that way. Two other members of the church also volunteered to be tested, and all three were good matches. In a church of 70, that was a miracle in itself, he says.

The other two volunteers and Davis had an open and honest discussion about which of them would be the best donor.

“We got the transplant coordinator on the phone and asked if there was anything about any one of us that would make them the better candidate. She said ?No.’”

Coming to the decision was emotional, he says. “Each person told their story of faith and love and why they wanted to do this.” The three finally decided Davis should be the donor because he had the strongest sense of calling.

“All three of us stood around a phone and called Laura,” he says. He told her the decision had been made, and he was going to give her a kidney.

“There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, and then I could hear her sobbing,” he says.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS file photo by Ed Fillmer

The Rev. J. Michael Davis talks to Laura England before her high school graduation.
England says she felt a reassurance from God throughout the entire time that everything would be all right.

“I never really did think, ?Oh I am being punished,’ or ?Why me?’ or anything like that,” she says. “I never had a doubt in my mind that everything would work out.”

Davis says he felt a similar assurance. “Once I got through the struggle and came to understand this was a calling, there was no more fear.”

The transplant surgery was performed July 21 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Even though the surgery hit Davis “like a Mack truck out on the highway,” both he and England are feeling great.

After the surgery, the doctor told Davis, “You have given Laura an industrial strength kidney.” Turns out his kidneys were larger than usual, and that is good news for England.

England hopes to get married, have a family and a successful career — probably in the medical field.

“I will always take one day at a time; I always have,” she says. “I have all the hopes and dreams of anybody else. Because Michael gave me his kidney, I will be able to live just like a normal person.”

The United Methodist Church officially encourages all people of faith to be organ and tissue donors. “We believe that organ transplantation and organ donation are acts of charity, agape love and self-sacrifice,” the church states in its Book of Discipline.

Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday, a United Methodist special Sunday observed as part of National Donor Sabbath, will be Nov. 13.

Davis says the miracle of being able to transplant an organ from one person to another is awe-inspiring, but the real miracle has been in how much he has received.

“You receive so many blessings, it is just unbelievable.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.
 

Audio Interview with Laura England
“I am like a new person now.”
“I have all the hopes and dreams of a normal person.”
Related Articles
God inspires decision to donate kidney
Think about giving someone a second chance at life
United Methodists urge saving lives through organ donation
Resources
Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday
United Network for Organ Sharing
The Coalition on Donation
Donate Life